Are Happiness and Meaning the Same? Learn the difference between Taking and Giving in Life.

My son Jeff sent me an insightful and powerful article “There is more to Live than being Happy” from The Atlantic on Victor Frankl and other researchers discussion on the difference between pursuing happiness and meaning in life. In essence, pursuing happiness is all about fulling your needs and wants the taking approach to living. So happiness is a more selfish approach to living. Living a life of meaning is all about pursuing giving and doing things beyond yourself. Meaning is selfless and includes suffering and not just happiness. Here is a brief summary from the article:

” In 1991, the Library of Congress and Book-of-the-Month Club listed Man’s Search for Meaning as one of the top 10 most influential books in the United States. It has sold millions of copies worldwide. Now, over twenty years later, the book’s ethos — its emphasis on meaning, the value of suffering, and responsibility to something greater than the self — seems to be at odds with our culture, which is more interested in the pursuit of individual happiness than in the search for meaning. “To the European,” Frankl wrote, “it is a characteristic of the American culture that, again and again, one is commanded and ordered to ‘be happy.’ But happiness cannot be pursued; it must ensue. One must have a reason to ‘be happy.'”

A recent Gallup survey, says happiness levels of Americans are at a four-year high — as is, it seems, the number of best-selling books with the word “happiness” in their titles. At this writing, Gallup also reports that nearly 60 percent all Americans today feel happy without a lot of stress or worry. On the other hand, according to the Center for Disease Control, about 4 out of 10 Americans have not discovered a satisfying life purpose. Forty percent either do not think their lives have a clear sense of purpose or are neutral about whether their lives have purpose. Nearly a quarter of Americans feel neutral or do not have a strong sense of what makes their lives meaningful. Research has shown that having purpose and meaning in life increases overall well-being and life satisfaction, improves mental and physical health, enhances resiliency, enhances self-esteem, and decreases the chances of depression. On top of that, the single-minded pursuit of happiness is ironically leaving people less happy, according to recent research. “It is the very pursuit of happiness,” Frankl knew, “that thwarts happiness.”

“Being human always points, and is directed, to something or someone, other than oneself — be it a meaning to fulfill or another human being to encounter. The more one forgets himself — by giving himself to a cause to serve or another person to love — the more human he is.”

Many researchers now agree that the pursuit of meaning is what makes human beings uniquely human. By putting aside our selfish interests to serve someone or something larger than ourselves — by devoting our lives to “giving” rather than “taking” –– we are not only expressing our fundamental humanity, but are also acknowledging that that there is more to the good life than the pursuit of simple happiness.”

Don’t miss reading the rest of the article and some of my posts on thewick they are a must read for those wanting to understand how to live a more Constructive and Meaningful Life. 

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